The first step towards achieving proactive maintenance of your equipment is to ensure that your lubricants are stored correctly. These are four critical things that you’ll want to keep in mind when storing your lubricants.
LUBRICANT STORAGE LIFE
Lubricants have recommended shelf lives which can vary based on the types of additives or base oils used in the manufacturing of the lubricant. You’ll want to ensure that you employ a First In, First Out (FIFO) rotation for your products so that you do not accidentally exceed the storage life. Typically the standard storage life of a lubricant is between two and three years.
Storage life is based on ideal storage conditions including an environment that is clean and dry, with a constant temperature. Varying temperatures can cause product containers such as drums to “breathe” which can pull moisture into the drum along with the air. The longer a drum is sitting in this kind of environment the more water that can accumulate at the bottom of the drum.
Temperature extremes are also a problem for lubricant storage, as extreme heat or cold can cause chemical degradation of the lubricant shortening its shelf life. Optimal temperature ranges from 5°C to 30°C.
Indoor storage in a temperature controlled environment is the recommended best practice as this limits the exposure to the elements, but it is still important that your lubricants are kept away from sources of contamination (such as dusty areas or wash bays).
Outdoor storage of lubricants cannot always be avoided due to environmental, financial, or physical space restraints. If lubricants must be stored outdoors, shelter your lubricants from rain, snow, and other elements while tracking consumption carefully to ensure that inventory is only replenished when low to minimize adverse environmental effects. Drums should lay on their sides with the bungs at the 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock positions.
One of the most common causes of equipment failure is lubricant contamination through incorrect top-up procedures. Ensure that all lubricant containers are carefully labeled, with extra care on any products stored outside. Colour coding labels and storage can help with this as well.
The same methodology should be applied to lubricant dispensing equipment as well. Each product should have dedicated pumps to avoid cross contamination, and ensure that you are not using dirty funnels and fill jugs when transferring or topping up equipment.
Ultimately your lubricant life, and by extension your equipment life, will be based on the cleanliness of your lubricants. All effort should be made to keep your lubricants clean and dry as a part of your proactive maintenance program. For sensitive systems, such as hydraulics, you may need to filter the oil from your bulk tanks to ensure that you are not introducing any outside contamination into your system.
These simple steps can help keep your equipment running longer, and will have a great impact on the useful lifespan of your lubricants.